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Traveling With Manga

As I leave for my trip tomorrow, I find myself with a bit of a dilemma. Do I pack manga or not? I wish I could bring enough for the entire trip, but doing so would probably mean packing more than one suitcase and nowadays that’s going to cost a lot of money.

Still, I’ve tried really hard to bring a good library to keep me entertained. Once I did it for a month I spent studying Spanish in Havana, Cuba. I wound up giving half of my library to a Cuban comic book fan in desperate need of more current material and the other half got ruined by rain leaking into my bedroom. If I’m lucky, I’ll stumble upon manga during my trip. I remember when I went to Argentina and wound up stumbling upon Cardcaptor Sakura being sold at ordinary new stands in the street. But I’ve tried to stop bringing much manga on my trips because it’s simply tough to bring so many heavy books when your trips are as active as the ones I usually go on…

Nevertheless, It’s tough to go without a manga fix for a long period of time, so here are my suggestions. I’m going to base them on the length and nature of the trip, but first, a suggestion that covers any sort of traveling you might do:

If you have an e-reader or other device that can play anime or allow you to read manga (without wireless handy), load it up and USE IT.

Man, I wish I had an e-reader. Maybe next year.

Now then!

For most trips, but especially if you’re flying:

-Try to avoid bringing more than 5-10 manga if you can manage it. Manga is heavy and airlines like to charge for luggage when they can. Domestic flights are usually the worst culprits, charging for every piece of luggage check, but international flights will also charge if you go overweight. You’ll also want to pack light if you expect to be doing a lot or expect to be shopping. You’ll want room in your luggage for all your goodies.

-Try paperback light novels. They’re lighter than manga, but are written in similar style. There are more than a few out in English including Twelve Kingdoms, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and the more mature Haikasoru line from Viz.

-Heck, try reading normal novels. There are a number of splendid books out there. I’m particularly fond of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series at the moment, so I’ve gotten a bunch of his novels for my trip.

-If you’re studying Japanese, bring your dictionary and a couple of tankobon. It takes a lot longer when you’re trying to comprehend something in another language, so your entertainment value will be stretched further and you’ll improve your vocabulary!

For trips to conventions:

-I really only have one suggestion for this one- just bring some magazines for the trip over and then buy your fill of entertainment for the trip back. I always like to pack light for conventions anyway.

For boring trips to grandma’s:

-If you’ve got the space to do so, bring as much as you’d like to keep yourself entertained. But, if you can, see if you can’t get someone to take you to a local bookstore so you can stock up and only have to haul a heavy load one way.

-Sneak over to your cousin’s place, borrow their computer and read some digital manga. Oh, hey, look, here’s a bunch of FREE and LEGAL manga to read online.

That’s really it, there’s not a lot to packing manga for trips beyond common sense and a bit of cleverness.

And with that I’m off. You can look forward to a few guest posts in the next two weeks and perhaps a quick word from me when I can fit it in. Perhaps I’ll go looking for the Thai manga scene (I’ve been told they have one, but I’m not sure if Laos does) in between riding elephants and looking for tigers. :D

(Yeah, I’m excited for the tigers and the elephants too.)

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Manga Factory Starts a New Tour Division–Why?

Last week fledgling manga publisher Manga Factory announced that they were offering a 6-day tour to Japan called the “Escape to Tokyo” tour that begins next month.

All I have to say is: “Dear Manga Factory, why would you do this to yourselves?”

Let me explain. My mother’s owned her own travel agency for decades and regularly does group trips that I accompany her on. Group trips are small nightmares. First there’s the planning aspect of things: what do you do, where do you go kind of stuff. It seems like Manga Factory has that part down, so good for them. Then there’s the getting people to fill up your space (which you have hopefully gotten from the hotels and airline way ahead of time), which takes lots of time. Many, many months, in fact, because it takes time for payments to process and to get various visas, etc. This “Escape to Tokyo” tour is leaving in a month. Eeeeeeep.Not only that, but if you don’t fill your space by certain dates, the hotels and airlines can take them away from you. Last minute seats are usually much more expensive too.

Let’s add in the facts that a) we’re in an awful economy and b) otaku usually don’t have a lot of money. Just how is this tour division going to get it’s legs off the ground? Just how is their parent company going to get it’s legs off the ground if this tour doesn’t go as well as they’ve planned?

I don’t really want to be too pessimistic here. There may be legitimate reasons for Manga Factory to hold this tour. Perhaps a large number of their staff are going to Japan for business and/or pleasure and they thought they’d do a little side business while they were there. Could drum them up some money. They may have started this idea while Aurora was still going and wanted to continue it at their new company. OK, but that’s mere speculation on my part and they could be totally playing this by ear.

They also have pretty competitive prices with their biggest rival, Digital Manga Publishing‘s Pop Japan Travel (who is also running a tour around the Tokyo Game Show.) While Pop Japan Travel’s tour is cheaper and more customizable, Manga Factory’s tour is slightly longer and offers a lot of things that Pop Japan Travel’s tour doesn’t such as butler cafes, drag queen shows and an excursion to Cosplay Festa. Actually, if I had the choice I’d go for Manga Factory’s tour, just because I’ve been to Japan before and seen most of the Tokyo sights I want to see. However, if I was going for my first time, I’d certainly want to go see more of the traditional sights that Pop Japan offers instead of focusing solely on otaku-related stuff. Manga Factory doesn’t take you anywhere interesting in that sense, until you have a free day on day 7. Every preceding day is otaku sights, otaku sights and host clubs. It’s actually a pretty rigorous tour in that sense. If this were a group run by my mother, there would be free time at the beginning of the trip to get over the nasty jet lag.

Still, this tour could be successful for Manga Factory (I’m hoping it is,) except for one issue: THERE’S ONLY ONE MONTH UNTIL THE TOUR!!!

I don’t know how many spots they have to fill, but boy am I hoping it’s a really really small number… Taking a trip overseas is expensive and even people wealthier than your average American otaku need time to think about making such a big decision. Next time, please give everyone much more than a month to sign up for your tour.

Best of luck, Manga Factory. I really want your tour to succeed and even if it doesn’t, I want you to succeed as a publisher.  I’m just a blogger and a freelancer who happens to be familiar with the travel industry.

P.S. I really hope you’re not using JTB for your Ghibli museum extension because… they aren’t the greatest way to take your precious clients there. I had a fairly bad experience when I went with them and then I found out I could just buy the tickets at Lawson instead. (Seriously, they carted us around Tokyo for an hour before they took us to a train station where we waited for another hour to meet our tour guide who did absolutely nothing except take us there. Don’t use JTB for otaku stuff.)

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